Opinion

Infection Prevention and Control Week

Infection Prevention and Control Week

The second week of July has been declared by President Duterte as National Infection Prevention and Control Week. Proclamation No. 971 was signed on June 23 as the country, like the rest of the world, continued to grapple with the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. As this special week approached, the country saw a spike in COVID-19 cases, which health officials attributed to community transmission.

The observance of the special week should highlight the areas that still need considerable ramping up in the government’s response to the COVID-19 contagion. Health experts are in agreement that battling the pandemic calls for sufficient testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation capabilities. With limited resources, the country has yet to fully achieve its capability targets.

As the country prepared to observe the special week, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it was aiming to begin hiring an additional 50,000 contact tracers within the month. There are proposals to tap teachers, a number of whom face uncertainty in their jobs because of low enrollment for the new school year, as contact tracers. But there is still no budget for the planned hiring, according to the DILG. The country has yet to fully tap digital technology for swift and effective contact tracing.

The reopening of the economy means more people using mass transportation, particularly in densely populated Metro Manila. The Department of Transportation, which oversees the railway services in Metro Manila where hundreds of employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as the country’s seaports and airports, is just starting to ramp up surveillance, contact tracing and testing of passengers. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has just approved the plans of the DOTr for intensified monitoring, contact tracing and testing for COVID in these facilities.

The National Infection Prevention and Control Week is starting as the country braces for the possibility of airborne transmission, at least in enclosed spaces, for COVID-19. The country is gradually emerging from four months of lockdowns that health experts say contained the virus, but also devastated the economy. The restrictions are expected to continue for some time. All the sacrifices that people have made and continue to endure must not go to waste, and must be accompanied by vigorous efforts to improve the country’s capability to contain the virus.